Ian and I have been living in Philadelphia for almost 2 years now. I am still amazed at the amazing new finds I’m discovering in the city – restaurants, architecture, parks, etc. A few weeks ago, my mom came for her annual visit, and she suggested that we visit The Rail Park after reading about it in a newspaper article. Funnily enough, I had no idea what she was referring to!
The Rail Park is basically Philadelphia’s response to NYC’s High Line. They are using defunct railroad viaducts to build this urban, sky-level park. The project has 3 phases, and currently only phase 1 is complete and open to the public. It’s a short 1/4 mile stretch of the park filled with steel swing benches, lots of greenery, and plenty of seating.
For more information, visit https://www.therailpark.org.
You guys, I’ve been wanting to make this for soooooo long. So I’ve been going back and forth on whether or not I should get a bamboo steamer. There are so many Chinese goodies I want to make, but they all require using a steamer. Something in me always cheapened out and I never got one. Until last week when my mom surprised me with her old bamboo steamer when she came to visit. I guess she got tired of me telling her my justifications of getting one vs. not. Regardless, I’m stoked.
I knew right away that the first thing I had to make were hua juan. This literally translates to “flower twist”. It’s a variation of traditional Chinese steamed buns, but with a twist (quite literally!). The bun is shaped with a twist to mimic a flower blooming and is seasoned with salt, white pepper, and scallions. It’s such a simple bread but so delicious.
Hua Juan (Flower Bun)
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (+more for dusting)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 Tb sesame oil
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together flour, salt, water, and yeast using a dough hook. Mix on low for about 5-10 minutes, until the dough is soft and passes the window-pane test. Cover and set aside in room temperature until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Dust work surface with flour. Roll dough into a long log and split into 10 portions. Roll each portion into a long rectangle (about 6 inches in length). Using a paring knife, make several slits lengthwise, leaving about 1 cm at each end. Using a pastry brush, brush on a thin layer of sesame oil. Sprinkle with a little bit of white pepper, salt, and scallions. Using both hands, grab both ends of the dough and twist the dough in opposite directions. Then spiral the dough together to form a coil. Tuck one end in the middle and the other end in the bottom. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Line bamboo steamer with parchment paper. Let dough rest for about 10 minutes. Fill a large pan with about 2 inches of water, place the steamer in the pan. Bring to a boil and steam for 15 minutes, and rest for 5 minutes before lifting the lid.
If macarons are the finicky, pain-in-the-butt to make cookies, then castellas are the macaron-equivalent of a cake. At first glance, castellas don’t look super difficult. It’s a loaf cake. What can be so hard about it? Well, the hardest part is keeping the shape once it’s out of the oven. A lot of times, castellas will sink in the middle and create this dip in the center. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still crazy delicious, but it just doesn’t look as nice.
The tricky thing about castella is that the only rising agent is eggs. That’s right, there’s no baking powder, baking soda, nada. Additionally, there aren’t a lot of flour in the cake mixture, so whipping the eggs to the correct stages is absolutely crucial to ensure the perfect castella.
I have such fond memories of castella (my family calls them honey cakes). My mom would always buy one from the Asian grocery store when we were growing up. Since we don’t really like overly sweet desserts in my household, this was the perfect amount of sweetness. And the best part is it only uses 5 ingredients – that you probably already have at home.
Castella (Honey Cake)
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tb honey
- 1 Tb water
- 3/4 cup bread flour, sifted
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper.
- In a stand mixer, whisk eggs on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy, slowly add granulated sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick and pale.
- Stir together the honey and water. Microwave in 10-second intervals until the honey is easily pourable. Pour honey into the egg mixture with the mixer running. Continue mixing for another 2 minutes.
- In 2 parts, slowly shake in the bread flour. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour into the egg mixture. Be sure to not overmix.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then lower oven to 300°F and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Remove cake from the oven and tap the loaf pan on the counter to prevent it from sinking. Turn cake upside down and transfer to an airtight container (or wrap in plastic wrap). Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the sides off of the cake before serving.
I’ve been waiting all week for these! Ian is going out of town for work and this weekend, my best friends are coming down from New York to have a girls’ weekend in Philly. We’ve been saying that we want to have a fancy tea party, so tomorrow, we’ll be serving so many tea party worthy foods – cranberry walnut scones, crackers with goat cheese and dill, cucumber sandwiches, and so much more. But the crowning glory to the spread we’ll be having are these triple mango macarons.
I had this idea of making a mango macaron with a mango buttercream AND a mango jam center. Since summer is here and mangos prices are dropping, I thought there is no better time than now to tackle these macarons.
Triple Mango Macarons
- 100g egg whites
- 100g granulated sugar
- 100g almond flour
- 100g powdered sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp mango extract (optional)
- Yellow and red food coloring (optional)
- 3 cups chopped mango (I used 3 champagne mangos)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup mango jam
- Yellow and red food coloring (optional)
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Over a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy, about 2 minutes. Transfer this to a stand mixer or a handheld mixer with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high. Put in a pinch of salt, cream of tartar, and mango extract. Beat until stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes. If you want to color your macarons, add a little bit of gel food coloring at this point and beat for 5 seconds only.
- In a food processor, combine the almond flour and powdered sugar. Pulse 5x. Sift the mixture into a bowl, Discard any remaining chunks that cannot be sifted.
- Carefully put the almond flour & powdered sugar mixture into the egg white mixture bowl. Beat on medium-low for 10 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the mixture. Do the figure 8 test by scooping some batter up with your spatula and draw the number 8. If the batter does not break, it’s done! Make sure you do not overmix.
- Pour macaron mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe out 1-inch circles on a baking sheet. Bang the pan on the countertop a couple times to release any air bubbles. Let it sit out to dry until the top forms a skin, about 20 minutes. You should be able to touch the top without anything sticking to your finger. When it’s dry, it’s ready to bake.
- Bake for 13-14 minutes on the middle rack, rotating the pan halfway.
- Find matching pair of macaron shells. Place them side-by-side and belly up. Pipe the mango buttercream around the outer edge of the macaron to create a barrier. Spoon about 1/2 tsp of mango jam in the center. Gently place another macaron on top and press gently to adhere.
- In a pot, bring sugar and water to a boil. Add mango and lemon juice and bring this mixture to a gentle boil and stir. Use a potato masher and mash the mango until it breaks apart. Cook until the jam is thickened. Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, beat together butter, powdered sugar, and mango jam until light and fluffy, about 7-10 minutes. Add food coloring, if desired.
- The mango jam will yield about 1 pint of jam. The rest of it … do with it what you will!
My first copycat recipe! A few months ago, while I was perusing Trader Joe’s (aka my “fun” store), I saw this Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread in the frozen section by all the pizzas. Naturally, I was interested. Burrata, good. Prosciutto, good. Arugula, good! I grabbed one and popped it in the oven that evening. It’s probably the best frozen pizza I’ve ever had.
Okay, so I’m 98.7% sure that the only reason Trader Joe’s doesn’t call this a pizza is because there’s really no sauce on it. Since burrata is naturally really creamy, it serves as a sauce base.
Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/2 cup bread flour (+ more for work surface)
- 2 Tb olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup fresh arugula (one fist full)
- 8 oz burrata (about 2 medium burrata)
- 6 slices prosciutto
- 1 Tb olive oil
- In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, sugar and warm water. Wait about 5-7 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. Add bread flour, olive oil, and salt. Mix until well combined and transfer to a work surface and knead until smooth ball forms. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Roll out dough to a 9×13 rectangle and transfer to a baking sheet. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil. Break open the burrata. Smear the creamy filling all over the rolled out dough and evenly distribute the mozzarella “shell”. Top with arugula.
- Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Wrinkle each prosciutto slice into a nest and place on top of the flatbread.
- For crispy prosciutto, simply add the prosciutto prior to baking.
Summer’s here, which means it’s time to make smores. I’m that weird kid who never liked marshmallows. There’s something about them that was always so off-putting to me. If you melt them and made rice krispies, sure I’ll gobble them up. But as is, no thank you.
Then I was introduced to homemade marshmallows. Mind. Blown. Homemade marshmallows taste less sweet, but has a nougat taste and is much fluffier than its storebought counterpart.
I decided to whip up a batch of homemade marshmallows (they’ll mainly be used for rice krispies later this week). But I reserved a few for stovetop smores and hot cocoa for dessert tonight. Best of all, this recipe finally used up all the egg whites that have been taunting me in the fridge for over a week.
Easy Homemade Marshmallows
- 2 packets unflavored gelatin powder
- 1 cup water, divided use
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 3 Tb honey
- 5 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tb vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- In a small bowl, whisk together the gelatin powder and 1/2 cup of water. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt together granulated sugar, corn syrup, honey, and remaining 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until the candy thermometer registers 240°F.
- Beat egg whites and pinch of salt in a stand mixer until stiff peaks. Pour sugar mixture in a slow stream. Beat for about 5 minutes on high speed. Microwave the gelatin mixture in 10-second intervals until it’s melted. Pour that into the stand mixture slowly. Continue beating for about 10 minutes, or until the bowl is cool to the touch.
- Mix together the cornstarch and powdered sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle 2 tbs of this mixture over a 9×13 pan lined with parchment paper. Spread marshmallow mixture over the pan and let it sit out in room temperature for 4-6 hours.
- Spray a knife or pizza cutter with cooking spray and cut the marshmallows into the desired size and shape. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.